As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.
History 111 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
- What does this film clip tell you is the main reason for involvement in Vietnam that was endorsed by all four presidents in office during the escalation of the Vietnam War? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP9QDRDLw6c
- For our next two class meetings, it is important to keep the words of these presidents in mind as we examine the Vietnam War - a war in which over 2 million people died, 2.5 million Americans participated, 58,000 American lost their lives, and in which we were involved for 30 years (1945-1975)
- To take a chronological journey through the historical events of
- To answer several key questions about the history
that led up to the Vietnam War:
- How did French colonialization contribute to the Vietnam War?
- Why did the French want to remain in Vietnam after its partitioning and why did they leave 10 years later?
- Why did the Americans take over in Vietnam where the French left off?
- To discuss the significant foreign policy events that have occurred
since the end of American involvement in Vietnam.
Goal #1: To take a chronological journey through the historical events of
Three historical phases of the war in Vietnam:
The Colonial Legacy: Chinese, French, and Japanese Colonialism, 208 BC to 1945
The War between the French and the Vietminh, 1946-1954
The Americanization of the War, 1954-1973
The Colonial Legacy, 208 BC
208 BC A Chinese general conquers a small area in
the northern mountains of what is now Vietnam and proclaims himself emperor
of "Nam Viet" - land of the Viets. Chinese colonization begins.
In the next century, the Han dynasty incorporates Nam Viet into Chinese
AD 40 First organized resistance campaign against Chinese
colonialism begins, lasting almost 1000 years.
967 Emperor Binh Bo Linh achieves Independence. His new
state begins to push south, conquering people along the way and reaching
its current borders. Rapid expansion brought about civil wars - primarily
between the north and the south - but Vietnamese still considered
themselves one people and one nation.
1627 French missionaries begin their influence in Vietnam.
1802 Vietnam politically unifies under Emperor, Gia Long.
The map indicates the full extent of Vietnam's political borders by 1757.
1847 Emperor Tu Duc begins to eliminate Christianity in Vietnam.
1861 French forces capture Cochinchina province. French
1863 French control extends to Cambodia.
1873 French begin to move into Tonkin.
1887 France creates the Indochinese Union after its successful move north, beginning in Cochinchina, continuing with Annan, and finishing with Tonkin. Vietnamese resistance to French colonization
begins and lasts for over 20 years.
1893 France absorbed Laos into French Indochina via a treaty with Siam.
French Indochina now consists of the modern nations of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
1919 Ho Chi Minh tries to petition President Woodrow Wilson at
Versailles peace conference for self-determination in Vietnam.
1930 Ho and comrades form the Indochinese Communist party in
1932 Bao Dai, theoretically emperor since 1925, returns to Vietnam
from school in France to ascend throne under French tutelage.
1940 Japan occupies Indochina in September, but leaves French
colonial administration intact.
1941 Ho Chi Minh covertly returns to Vietnam to form the Vietminh - a national independence movement founded in South China - whose goal was to seek independence for Vietnam from the French Empire and from the Japanese occupation. The immediate goal of the Vietminh was national independence; the move to a communist political agenda occurred several years later. The Vietminh opposition to Japan was supported by both the United States and the Republic of China.
1945 On March 9th, the Japanese take over French administration
throughout Indochina; two days later, Bao Dai proclaims independence of
Vietnam under Japanese auspices. Japanese colonization begins.
- Vietminh fights and overthrows Japanese; Vietminh in power
by August 18.
- On September 2, Ho declares independent Democratic Republic of
Vietnam. For the first and only time in modern history, Vietnam
is united and free from foreign domination - for 2 weeks.
- On September 13, British forces land in Saigon and return the ruling
authority of southern Vietnam to French. Nationalist Chinese occupy
northern Vietnam. Vietnam is formally partitioned into South and North Vietnam.
- On September 26, the first American - and OSS officer - dies in Vietnam.
Summary of the first phase:
- For these first 1,000 years, the Vietnamese suffered under Chinese colonialism.
- While organized efforts to achieve independence occurred throughout the period of Chinese colonization, it was not until 967 - after 1,000 years - that the Vietnamese achieved independence.
- For the next 800 years, sporadic civil wars occurred between the north and south.
- The French became the colonial rulers of Vietnam in 1861.
- About 80 years later, the Japanese occupied Vietnam.
- After World War II, Communist Vietnamese under under Ho Chi Minh declared their independence - an independence that lasted only a few weeks when British troops, backed by U.S. support, arrived in Vietnam which had essentially been partitioned
The War between the French and the Vietminh,
- The French resumed colonial authority over southern Vietnam.
- The Nationalist Chinese under communist influence occupied northern Vietnam.
- Neither side, however, was happy with the partitioning - a dissatisfaction that led to the next phase during which the French and the Vietminh battled for control over Vietnam.
1946 At the conference table, the French and Vietminh disagree
- French want to keep Vietnam divided at the 17th parallel; Vietminh want
unification. They finally reached agreement in March - France recognized
Vietnam as a "free state" within the French Union; agreed to send troops
north to replace the Nationalist Chinese; and agreed to a referendum to
determine reunification of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. The French violate these agreements and proclaim a separate government
for Cochinchina in June. Hostilities begin between the French and
- French warships bombard Haiphong in November and Ho's government
is forced out of Hanoi; War officially begins between the French and Vietminh. This is often known as the beginning of the Vietnam War - the first phase between the French and the communist Vietminh.
1950 Ho Chi Minh declares the Democratic Republic of Vietnam is the only
legal government. Soviets and Chinese recognize Ho's government
in the north while U.S. and Britain recognize the French government in the south..
- Truman authorizes first direct U.S. aid to Vietnam - $10 million
for military assistance to the French. By year's end, U.S.
gives France $150 million of aid in planes, tanks, fuel, ammunition, and
napalm. Indochinese War had become international in scope - a direct
result of Cold War politics.
1953 In October, France grants Laos full independence
as member of the French Union. Northern Vietminh forces enter
Laos in December.
- On November 9, Prince Sihanouk declares Cambodia's independence
1954 On March 13, the Battle of Dienbienphu begins.
The French request direct American intervention to help in the battle but
Eisenhower declines. The French are defeated on May 7th. French
lost 1,500 soldiers, 4,000 wounded; Vietminh suffered 8,000 deaths and
- In April, French seek peace at the Geneva Conference. In
July, agreements call for partition - South Vietnam under French influence,
and North Vietnam with Vietminh in control; a vote on reunification within
two years; free movement between the North and South for one year; and
independence for Laos and Cambodia.
- First Vietnam War ends - The French leave and the Americans enter.
Americans affirm support for new Prime Minister, Diem - a pro-western Catholic
backed by the U.S with little support from the South Vietnamese.
Summary of the second phase:
- The French were forced out of Vietnam after losing an 85-year-old struggle with colonialism and an eight-year war with the Vietnam. They had clearly underestimated the Vietminh.
- Didnít understand Vietnam's historical desire for nationalism.
- Didnít get that the Vietnames were fed up with foreign rule.
- Didnít understand the strength of North Vietnamese morale.
- Didnít understand the preparedness and dedication of the Vietminh troops.
- The Vietminh were in a good position, While at Geneva they had wanted to keep all they land they had won in the war (almost 2/3), they ended up with about 1/2 of the country. And they had wanted immediate elections in which they were sure to win.
- So why did they compromise at Geneva? The Chinese and Soviets convinced them that if France continued its fight, the U.S. would enter war which would widen the conflict.
- When the French left, the United States assumed support for South Vietnam by affirming support for Diem and providing $100 million in new aid .
The Americanization of the War, 1954
1954 By the end of the French phase of the war, the U.S. had spent
$2.5 billion in aid to the French (more assistance than France received
through the Marshall Plan), and had equipped the entire French army with
300,000 small arms and machine guns.
- Thousands of Catholic refugees fled Northern Vietnam to the
South where they felt they could live without persecution under Diem.
This new population further fractures the delicate politics of South Vietnam.
1955 U.S. government agrees to train South Vietnamese army
and the government exists almost exclusively on US aid.
- Diem rejects Geneva accords and refuses to participate in nationwide
elections on reunification. Nonetheless, U.S. keeps his government alive,
supports Diem's position not to hold elections, and holds Diem up to the
western world as the heroic enemy of communism. Vietnam remains divided.
Diem begins suppressing all opposition to his regime.
1957 Soviet Union proposes that North and South Vietnam
be admitted to UN as separate states; favors permanent division of Vietnam. U.S. refuses to agree.
- In October, Communist insurgent activity begins in South Vietnam.
1958 Guerrilla activities begin among South Vietnamese against Diem's
excesses - support of landlords over peasants, exploitation of people,
pro-Western support, and oppression of dissent. Vietminh brings aid
to guerrillas in south.
1960 North Vietnam imposes universal military conscription
in April; Hanoi leaders form National Liberation Front (NLF) for
South Vietnam which Saigon dubs the "Vietcong." The NFL declares
a war against the government of the South.
- Laotian government falls; a neutralist ruler comes to power
and receives Soviet aid. CIA helps form opposition faction favorable
to the U.S.
1961 In March, President Kennedy asserts US support for Laotian
sovereignty. However, he also covertly gives permission for the US military
to enter the mountainous regions of Laos and secretly train Hmong soldiers
for an eventual fight against the Communist Laotians.
(See red box on the map.) Thus, three years before we send ground troops into Vietnam, the U.S. violated the Geneva Convention by sending advisers to Laos to get involved in the growing struggle between pro- and anti-communist Laotians.
- Influence of Vietcong grows in South Vietnam: 500 civilians
and Diem officials have been assassinated and 1,500 people killed by Vietcong.
Kennedy decides to give Diem more equipment and advisers in October for
"strategic hamlet" policy - creating isolated villages to fight the Vietcong.
1962 American Military Assistance Command forms in South
Vietnam, Feb. 6; by mid-1962, American advisers increased from 700 to 12,000.
- Vietcong estimated to have around 300,000 members.
1963 16,000 American military "advisors" are in South Vietnam,
but some are also seeing "action"; $500 million American aid is sent during
- Buddhist monks and students begin to protest and to use the
American media to accentuate Diem's oppression. On June 16, Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc set himself on fire in downtown Saigon to protest the war. The televised death was a turning point in the war as it was designed to get public opinion to turn against the Diem regime and to get American support for the war. Diem and his brother,
Nhu - head of the secret police and intelligence - begin to persecute the
- On November 1, Vietnamese generals stage a coup against Diem and Nhu with
US knowledge and permission; both are murdered on Nov. 2nd.
- In November, President Kennedy is assassinated; Lyndon Johnson inherits
the legacy of the Vietnam War and the promise not to lose one square foot
of Asia to the Communists - citing as have two presidents before him, the domino theory.
1964 In January, General Khanh seizes power in Saigon with
American backing; in March, U.S. vows full support for Khanh. North
Vietnam, citing American colonization in South Vietnam, escalates war and
increases support to Vietcong.
- In March, the US secretly sponsors an air war in Laos designed
to get rid of the Pathet Lao (Communist) forces. For eight years,
Laos becomes the most heavily bombed nation in the world - almost all of
it in secret. There are no combat troops in Laos, only military advisors
and CIA agents. US financial commitment is 10 times that of the Laotian
- On August 2, the USS Maddox radios it is under attack from three North Vietnamese Navy P-4 torpedo boats 28 miles away from the North Vietnamese coast in international waters and reports that it had evaded a torpedo attack and opened fire which forced the torpedo boats away. Four US jets launched from the aircraft carrier USS Ticonderoga (CV-14) then attack the retiring P-4s. One US aircraft is damaged, three North Vietnamese torpedo boats are damaged, and four North Vietnamese sailors are killed and six are wounded; there are no U.S. casualties.
- On August 4, the Maddox and the Turner Joy launch a patrol 11 miles from the coast of North Vietnam. The destroyers receive radar, sonar, and radio signals that they believe signaled another attack by the North Vietnamese navy. The ships fire on radar targets amid electronic and visual reports of enemies. Despite the Navyís claim that two attacking torpedo boats had been sunk, there is no wreckage, no bodies of dead North Vietnamese sailors, or other physical evidence present at the scene of the alleged engagement.
- On August 7, U.S. Congress passes the Tonkin Gulf Resolution giving
President Johnson the power to take military action as he saw fit in Southeast
Asia. Thus, he could initiate hostilities without a congressional
declaration of war.
1965 In March, Operation Rolling Thunder begins as U.S. military aircraft attacks targets throughout North Vietnam through October 1968. This massive bombardment was intended to put military pressure on North Vietnam's Communist leaders and reduce their capacity to wage war against the U.S.-supported government of South Vietnam. Operation Rolling Thunder marked the first sustained American assault on North Vietnamese territory and thus represented a major expansion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
- 3,500 US Marines enter the war as the US commits
first ground forces to the War - in so doing, the US takes charge of the
War in Vietnam. War's mission changes from passive defense of South
Vietnamese air bases to aggressive offense to destroy the Vietcong and
the Communist threat in Southeast Asia.
- By the middle of the year, South Vietnamese army is losing
the war and the civilian government collapses; the military takes over.
- Year's end troop strength is almost 200,000 American soldiers. Yet there is no clear understanding from either the Johnson administration or the American people of the political, social, and economic complexities of the war to which we had just committed American troops.
- During the almost three years in which Operation Rolling Thunder operated, 643,000 tons of bombs are dropped and nearly 900 US aircraft are lost. The financial cost of Operation Rolling Thunder was huge: the estimated damage done to North Vietnam by the bombing raids was $300 million and the cost to the US of these raids was estimated at $900 million.
1966 Year's end troop strength is 400,000 American soldiers..
1967 Problems in Cambodia become more publicly apparent
with the rise of the communist Khmer Rouge.
- For the first time, an opinion poll shows that the majority
of Americans do not support the war in Vietnam.
- Year's end troop strength is 500,000 American soldiers.
1968 In late January, on the eve of the Chinese New Year,
the North Vietnamese launch the Tet Offensive. South Vietnam won
the battle, but the costs were enormous: 8,000 dead, the historic city
of Hue was destroyed, 3/4 of the survivors lost their homes. Tet
becomes the turning point of the War - although the Communists did not
win control of the cities, they held on to most of the rural areas and
had scored an impressive political victory with the Vietnamese. Many
Americans begin to think we cannot win the war. Thus, the American strategy
changes - Americans continue to fight for the same objective, an Independent
South Vietnam - but at the same time, we begin to negotiate for peace and
to withdraw our troops.
- On March 31, Lyndon Johnson announces he will not seek reelection.
- Anti-war violence erupts at the Democratic National Convention
in Chicago. The size of and support for the protests became a major
news story and introduced many Americans for the first time to the popularity
of the anti-war effort.
- Some members of President Johnson's cabinet begin to seriously question the war. Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense, suggests getting out. Johnson chooses to remain, but not escalate the war.
- In October, Operation Rolling Thunder ends when President Johnson offers its termination as a way of getting the North Vietnamese to a negotiating table.
1968 Presidential Election see the Democratic vote split by the war and results in the election of Republican, Richard Nixon.
- Year's end troop strength is 540,000 American soldiers; 40,000 Americans
had died and 250,000 had been wounded. Americans have invested over
$100 billion dollars in Vietnam.
1969 At the beginning of the year, American aircraft
are dropping 6 times more bombs on South Vietnam (in order to wipe
out the Vietcong) than they dropped on North Vietnam. Creates 6 million
refugees. At the same time, peace talks begin in earnest in January.
- On March 18, newly-elected President Nixon begins secret bombing
of Cambodia without permission of Prince Sihanouk.
- On May 14, Nixon proposes simultaneous withdrawal from South Vietnam
of American and North Vietnamese forces; first troop withdrawals occur
in June; a total of 60,000 are withdrawn by December. Year's end
troop strength is 480,000 American soldiers.
- In November, Nixon announces a new policy that will enable American troops to better trains South Vietnamese troops to assume responsibility for the war - Vietnamization.
1970 A coup occurs in Cambodia when Sihanouk leaves for a
state visit and Lon Nol becomes President. Lon Nol receives US support
and begins to form an army and promote hatred against the Khmer Rouge and
the Vietnamese living in Cambodia. In April, American and South Vietnamese
forces attack Cambodian Communist sanctuaries to search for arms depots
and enemy forces using the neutral nation as a sanctuary. Nixon
justifies actions because the communists have failed to support Cambodian
neutrality; in reality, we had not supported the Geneva Convention.
US loses 350 men in the 60-day operation. As we leave, Cambodia is
plunged into a civil war.
- Large anti-war activities spread throughout the US in May.
- U.S. Congress, in protest against Nixon's broadening of the war, terminated
the Tonkin Gulf Resolution of 1964.
- At year's end, American troop strength is 280,000.
1971 In January, the Vietnamese communists attacked Cambodia
for the first time. Within days, American soldiers arrive to help
with military advise, equipment delivery, and decision making. American
air power and funds keep Lon Nol's army alive without commitment of American
- U.S. supports South Vietnamese invasion of Laos.
In fact, while we are de-escalating our support of South Vietnam, we are escalating our support of Cambodia and Laos - even though we do not commit ground troops, we commit enormous military aid and American dollars.
- Pentagon Papers appears in New York Times revealing that US leaders
had frequently lied to Americans about our involvement in the war.
- At year's end, American troop strength was 140,000.
While we are deescalating support of Vietnam, we are escalating our support of Cambodia and Laos. Although we have no ground forces in either place, we are deeply involved with military aid and American dollars.
1972 North Vietnam launches offensive across demilitarized zone
on March 30; Nixon authorized bombing of area near Hanoi and Haiphong on
April 15. Nixon announces mining of Haiphong harbor and intensification
of American bombing of North Vietnam on May 8.
- Cease-fire talks begin in October; South Vietnamese President
Thieu refuses to accept conditions of the cease fire.
1972 Nixon orders bombing of areas around Hanoi and Haiphong;
communists agree to resume diplomatic talks when bombing stops.
1973 Talks resume on January 8; formal cease-fire agreement is signed
on January 27th: U.S. promises to withdraw all of its troops within 60
days; Vietnamese troops are to stay in place; and a coalition government
including the Vietcong would eventually be formed in the South. War
ends, but not the rivalry between North and South.
- The last American troops leave Vietnam, March 29. When the U.S. left, the South Vietnamese people were astonished; given our reputation as "the victors," they had not anticipated a U.S. withdrawal. In total,
over 2-1/2 million Americans fought in Vietnam, 58,000 died and 300,000
- U.S. steps up it's bombing campaign against the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia,
dropping over a quarter of a million tons in six months. Congress
does not become aware of Nixon's secret bombing until four years after
it began. On August 15, Congress demands that the bombing stops.
- U.S. Congress passes the War Powers Act limiting the power of the President
to make war for a maximum of 60 days without congressional consent.
1974 In January, the North Vietnamese announces that the war has begun again.
1975 On April 30, North Vietnamese forces take over Saigon
and the last American forces flee. South Vietnam surrenders to North Vietnam,
ending the war and reunifying the country under communist control. Washington
extends embargo to all of Vietnam. The War is finally over.
Summary of the American phase:
- Communism was neither defeated nor contained. Instead, Vietnam was united under a Communist regime. And how much had we gained? To answer that question, compare the two maps below of Vietnam in 1757 and in 1975 after almost 30 years of war.
had become involved in a CIVIL WAR - a war that ran counter to the interests of the
overwhelming majority of the Vietnamese. But we had become victims
of the Cold War fear of the domino effect. We never under-stood our "enemy,"
and we failed to believe that our policies could not contain the enemy
and that we had no legal or moral right to fight .
- The social and economic costs were enormous.
- For the Americans
- Over 2-1/2 million Americans fought in Vietnam: 58,000
died and 300,000 were wounded.
- The war cost the US more than $170 billion,
and billions more paid out in veterans benefits.
- Thousands of American
Veterans were physically and psychologically handicapped by the War.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder began to affect many Vietnam vets.
Over 2 million Vietnam veterans returned to the U.S., many suffering nightmares,
extreme nervousness, and general dysfunction.
- By the early 1990s,
some 60,000 veterans of Vietnam had committed suicide.
- For the Vietnamese
- Between 1.5 - 2 million soldiers and civilians died.
- The nation was decimated by defoliation, bombing, and burning.
- 7 million tons of bombs had been dropped by the Americans - almost one 500-pound bomb for
every human being in Vietnam, and two times the number dropped on Europe
and Asia in World War II.
- An unknown amount of poisonous sprays
were airdropped to destroy the trees and any other kinds of growth.
- Many Americans lost faith in the American "myth" of presidential truth
and U.S. "might and right." The War marked the end of national innocence
about our presidents and the reasons behind many of their political decisions.
We were also forced to deal with the fact that in the future, we would
not always be the "winners."
- The Vietnam War stimulated America's "second civil war". The
real shame for many Americans, was the shame of intervention, not the shame
of defeat. These contrary viewpoints tore Americans asunder.
In the words of General Maxwell Taylor who served in Vietnam, "We didn't
know our ally...we knew even less about the enemy. And the last, most
inexcusable of our mistakes, was not knowing our own people."
- The media began to suppress its coverage of war. Vietnam was
the first televised war. Thus, many Americans feel that the reason
public opinion turned against the war was because it was televised in all
its ugly realities. Since Vietnam, no other war in which America
has been involved has had full or open media coverage.
- By 1995, one of the war's most ardent architects, Robert McNamara, explained to America that the war "had been a mistake." In both his book, In Retrospect, and in the academy-award winning, The Fog of War, McNamara explained that we had made a mistake entering and remaining in the war.
Goal #2: To answer several key questions about the history
that led up to the Vietnam War:
- How did colonialization contribute to the Vietnam War?
- China, France and Japan kept Vietnam in colonial status for over 1,000 years. Throughout those years, the Vietnamese staged many efforts to gain their independence from their colonial rulers.
- Such colonization contributed to the partitionment of Vietnam. In 1945, Vietnam was partitioned after the Communist Vietnamese led by Ho Chi Minh declared their independence - an independence that lasted only a few weeks when British troops, backed by U.S. support, arrived in Vietnam: the French were to resume authority over South Vietnam while the Communist Vietminh had control over North Vietnam.
- Why did the French want to remain in Vietnam after its partitioning and why did they leave 10 years later?
- The French had three main reasons for remaining in Vietnam:
- They had the "after all we had done for them" attitude, as if they were entitled to rule over South Vietnam which they believed was a legitimate part of the French empire.
- To "defend Western civilization."
- To retain control over the rice, rubber, and tea industries.
- Ten years later, the French were forced out of Vietnam after losing an 85-year-old struggle with colonialism and an eight-year war with the Northern Vietnamese. They had clearly underestimated the Vietminh.
They French: didn't understand historical desire of the Vietnamese for nationalism; didn't get that the Vietnamese were fed up with foreign rule; didn't understand the strength of NorthVietnamese morale; and they didn't understand the preparedness and dedication of North Vietnamese troops.
- Why did the Americans take over in Vietnam where the French left off? In 1954, the U.S. refused to sign the Geneva Convention
as we were determined not to see the reunification of Vietnam under communism.
Instead, U.S. affirmed support for Diem - the new western-educated leader of South Vietnam, provided $100 million in new aid, and helped evacuate hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled from the north. Many theories have arisen as to how and why this support led us into the final phase of the Vietnam War:
- A firm belief among a succession of Presidents - beginning
with Truman - and Presidential advisors that if one country fell to communism,
all of Indochina would fall (Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and eventually
the Phillippines) - domino theory.
- Fear that US interests in Asia would be jeopardized with Communist
control of Vietnam - especially the chain of U.S. military bases along
the coast of China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea.
- Communist control of Southeast Asia would give Americans control
over "strategically important commodities" like natural rubber, tin, coal,
iron ore, and oil.
- Communist control over Vietnam's rich rice fields and Japan's dependence
upon rice would make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan's eventual
capitulation to Communism.
- Kennedy and Johnson's fear - having seen how Republicans criticized
Truman for "losing" China - of being seen as "losing" Vietnam.
- Defeat in Vietnam would damage American prestige elsewhere in the
world - especially in South America and Africa
- Big business encouraged the war in order to help the economy.
- The war evolved from a cultural pattern of racism and imperialism
that began with the first Indian war in Virginia in 1622, continued with
the 19th Century drive of Manifest destiny, and continued with Vietnam.
- America blundered into the war with no clear cause and no clear purpose;
no subsequent presidential administrations had the courage to undo our
mistake of supporting France's colonial position in Vietnam.
Goal #3: To discuss the significant foreign policy events that have occurred
since the end of American involvement in Vietnam
1978 Vietnam starts to repress its ethnic Chinese
minority in November; in December, thousands of "boat people" flee Vietnam.
In December, Vietnam invades Cambodia and topples Pol Pot's
Khmer Rouge government, ending its reign of terror.
1979 Western European countries and non-communist Asian nations
support a U.S.-led embargo against Vietnam, in protest against invasion
1982 In February, Vietnam agrees to talks on American MIAs
(Missing in Action). On November 11, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, "The Wall,"
is dedicated in Washington, D.C.
1984 The three soldiers statute at the Vietnam Memorial is dedicated at the Wall.
1988 Vietnam begins cooperation with United States to resolve
fate of American servicemen missing in action (MIA).
1989 In September, Vietnam completes Cambodia withdrawal.
1991 The US and Vietnam agree to establish an American
office in Hanoi to help determine MIAs' fate. Washington presents Hanoi
with a roadmap for phased normalization of relations and the lifting of
1992 In April, Washington eases the trade embargo by allowing
commercial sales to Vietnam that meet basic human needs, lifts restrictions
on projects by American non-governmental and non-profit groups, and allows
establishment of telecommunications links with Vietnam.
In December, President George Bush grants permission for U.S.
companies open offices, sign contracts and do feasibility studies in Vietnam.
1993 The Vietnam War Women's Memorial is dedicated.
1994 In January, the Senate approves a non-binding resolution
urging President Clinton to lift the embargo, a move they felt would help
get a full account of Americans still listed as missing in the Vietnam
1995 In May, Vietnam gives a U.S. presidential delegation
a batch of documents on missing Americans, later hailed by Pentagon as
most detailed and informative of their kind.
On July 11, President Clinton announces normalization of relations
with Vietnam, saying the time has come to move forward and bind up the
wounds from the war.
1997 On April 10, former POW Douglas "Pete" Peterson
is confirmed by the Senate as the first ambassador to Vietnam since the
end of the war.
In August, a US embassy opens in Hanoi.
2000 On November 16, President Clinton and his family
arrive in Hanoi. Clinton is the first President to visit Vietnam since
President Nixon's visit in 1969.
On October 3, the US Senate approves an agreement normalizing
trade between the United States and Vietnam.
2001 On November 28, Vietnam's National Assembly ratifies
the trade agreement with the US but warned that any US interference in
Vietnam's internal affairs could jeopardize implementation of the agreement.
The Vietnamese government voiced strong concerns over the US. House of
Representatives' passage of a Vietnam Human Rights Act which ties future
US non-humanitarian aid to improvements in Vietnam's human rights record.
2004 A National Security Agency historical study is declassified and indicates that the Maddox had engaged the North Vietnamese Navy on August 2 in the Tonkin Gulf incident, but that there may not have been any North Vietnamese Naval vessels present during the incident. The report stated:
"[I]t is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night. [...] In truth, Hanoi's navy was engaged in nothing that night but the salvage of two of the boats damaged on August 2."
One last thought ...